Jan Bonde Nielsen is a man born in 1938 in Denmark to a family often described as “humble and hard-working.” That work ethic was deeply embedded in the character of Nielsen as he set out to build an entrepreneurial career. He would come to be known as everything from an “oil tycoon” to one of the world’s leading philanthropists and ardent supporters of the earth’s natural environment.

It’s fair to say that Jan Bonde Nielsen has been a “magnet for controversy” throughout his colorful journey. That’s not unusual for business innovators who have boldly stepped out on the leading-edge to champion new kinds of projects in remote locations. Nielsen was always a man willing to operate in isolated areas most others ignored, especially backwater regions of Africa.

A prime example was Nielsen’s founding of DCK International in Kenya. This was an agricultural project designed to tap an underdeveloped niche market — growing flowers. Working in cooperation with the Fund for Developing Countries, Nielsen’s DCK soon comprised a sprawling operation of more than five million square meters that provided 7,000 much-needed jobs for the people of Kenya. DCK also proved that developing nations like Kenya could support native-grown business models that were sustainable.

It’s ironic that Jan Bonde Nielsen is often referred to as an “oil tycoon” when he has done far more work in the alternative energy sector. Deeply concerned about climate change, Nielsen has been a key backer of the 400 MW Meerwind offshore wind station located in the North Sea. The green-energy producing wind station is located 80 kilometers from the coast of Germany and 24 miles north of Helgoland Island.

Nielsen invested in the Meerwind project through Greenoak Group, an investment group he founded in 1999. This PE and management firm has also invested in the 80-turbine Sandbank project located in the North Sea and developed by Oldenburg Projekt.

Jan Bonde Nielsen currently holds a board seat with Food & Agricultural Research, a non-profit organization that supports African farmers and herders. This group has been instrumental in improving the lives of African food producers by helping them grow more food using modernized techniques that have leveraged eco-friendly and sustainable farming practices.